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Delta Air Lines planes sit parked at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Oct. 27, 2020.BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters

Delta Air Lines Delta Air Linessaid on Wednesday it will continue blocking middle seats through March 30, setting it apart from its largest U.S. rivals under a longer-term strategy to fetch higher passenger revenues.

Recent medical research has shown that the risk of contracting the coronavirus on airplanes is very low when passengers wear masks, underpinning other large U.S. airlines' policies to sell all available seats on their planes.

But Delta is betting that people are willing to pay a premium for more space.

“Some customers are still learning to live with this virus and desire extra space for their peace of mind,” its chief customer experience officer, Bill Lentsch, said in a statement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed diverging strategies among airlines to coax people to travel again and pave a path back to profitability once the crisis subsides.

U.S. airlines have cut their flying capacity by around 50 per cent in response to lower demand, but intend to gradually put more planes back in the air as demand returns, particularly once COVID-19 treatments and vaccines become widely available.

Delta’s move means that it can immediately free up capacity by unblocking middle seats, without the cost of adding more planes.

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